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Cognitive Orientation: A Model of Human Behavior USPHS

Kreitler, Hans; Kreitler, Shulamith
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
United States Public Health Service (USPHS), Behavioral Science Research, Beliefs, Cognitive Processes, Models, Psychological Studies


This paper outlines, describes, and diagrams a model of "cognitive orientation," a cognitive model of human behavior. This theory attempts to integrate confirmed findings of various theories of cognitive psychology and also allow for its own experimental predictions and manipulations of behavior. The term "cognitive" is defined as referring to processes through which meaningful representations are produced and manipulated, to distinguish cognitive from non-cognitive theories of behavior. The "orientating reflex" found in animals is also discussed to further clarify and define the term "orientation." The term "meaning action" is proposed to refer to the process by which presentations of a stimulus acquire meaning so that a reflex or conditioned reflex can be elicited in response to that meaning. It is further proposed that there is a difference of degree and not of kind between reflexes and CR's and molar behavior, and that the transition from the lower level of behavior to the higher is characterized on the cognitive level by "meaning generation." Four types of belief, corresponding to the four cognitive content variables, are identified. They are" 1) beliefs about self; 2) general beliefs; 3) norms and rules; and 4) goals. "Belief Clusters" within each of these components were found experimentally to correlate with behavior. Implications of this theory for motivation, thinking and psychopathology are discussed and use of the CO theory for investigation, prediction and modification of human behavior is proposed.

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